Traditional legal services are losing their luster. People are steadily turning away from the good old lawyers and law firms and toward solutions powered by technology. But why?
We’ve covered this topic at length, but what it comes down to is that alternative legal service providers are offering more efficient and cost effective solutions to consumers, and they have taken a stronghold on the market as a result.
So what will happen to the traditional market for lawyer-provided legal services? It’s quite possible that it will never look the same again. This post lays out a basic analysis of two of the primary trends occurring in the market today to help lawyers prepare themselves for the future. Those 2 trends reshaping the legal industry are commoditization and specialization.
Basic legal services are becoming a commodity, driven by the demands of consumers. The market wants easy, accessible, efficient, and affordable. Not to mention great customer service. Currently, LegalZoom and RocketLawyer are better at delivering these things than most lawyers, irrespective of the quality of the actual legal work (because most consumers don’t know the difference anyway).
The Internet has changed the game by streamlining services and opening up a wealth of free, easily accessible legal self help and information. Commoditization is real, and it’s here to stay. The trend will only become stronger as these online alternatives make improvements to their products and services and gain an increasingly large share of the lower half of the market.
Unless lawyers change the way they do business by finding better ways to market themselves and serve these types of clients, they will likely retain only a limited portion of this market moving forward.
So where does that leave most up and coming young legal professionals today? Read on to learn about the other major trend in the legal industry, which is specialization.
The days of the general law practitioner are coming to an end. If you’re going to survive the massive shift occurring in the legal marketplace, you’ve got to find a niche and become a specialist.
The law is so broad and varied across each different industry and vertical. As a general practitioner, you’re not an expert in anything. The quality of legal work you can efficiently provide won’t be good enough anymore, with commoditized offerings taking that portion of the market by storm. If you’re going to survive, you’ve got to become an expert, and you’ve got to focus on one niche area of practice that these alternative service providers are unable to address.
To give you an idea, here are some examples of interesting, up and coming areas of law that are much more narrowly focused than the traditional fields:
- Internet and digital media
- Startup law
- Cyber security and privacy
- Technology patents and IP
- Legalized marijuana (yes really)
Generally, when new industries are emerging in the business world, the law will follow closely behind. Think about how the greater overall business market is shifting to discover where good future niches for your legal practice might lie. Study up on these industries, and especially on the related developments occurring in the law. And above all, find something you are passionate about! Not only will that make your work significantly more enjoyable, but you will be better at it as a result.
As demand for lawyers diminishes, and the proliferation of more affordable, technology-powered alternatives continues, there is a real possibility that the legal industry will never look the same.
Lawyers, not wanting to think of themselves as being in the “commodity” business, have done everything in their power to resist the changes taking place and protect their precious guild of an industry. But little by little, they are losing their control.
This is not to suggest that there won’t always be a place for flesh and blood attorneys in the future. But it’s about time that the legal community embraces the changes taking place, and prepares for a new wave in the business lawyering.